What is Inflammation of the Intestines?

Nicole Long

Chronic inflammation of the intestines results mainly from two diseases, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and is classified as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Temporary inflammation can result from gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis results from a viral, parasitic, or bacterial infection. No matter the cause, inflammation of the intestines can be uncomfortable and can interfere with an active lifestyle.

Chronic intestinal inflammation is usually from either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
Chronic intestinal inflammation is usually from either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

The diseases associated with IBD have no specific cause. Several factors are believed to contribute to the formation of IBD. These include genetic and environmental factors, such as a person’s ability to fight infection effectively.

Abdominal cramping may be a symptom of intestinal inflammation.
Abdominal cramping may be a symptom of intestinal inflammation.

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease both occur in the small intestine and colon. The diseases cause inflammation along the intestinal walls. This inflammation of the intestines leads to ulcers along the lining of the intestines.

Diarrhea and weight loss are commonly associated with ulcerative colitis.
Diarrhea and weight loss are commonly associated with ulcerative colitis.

There are some differences between the two diseases that make up IBD. The inflammation of Crohn’s disease extends past the lining of the intestinal walls and reaches deep into the walls of the intestines. In addition, fistulas are more commonly found in those with Crohn’s disease. Fistulas create a tunnel between their location in the bowel and other organs, skin, or sections of the bowel. This can lead to pockets of infection.

Vomiting can be a sign of inflammation of the intestines.
Vomiting can be a sign of inflammation of the intestines.

Symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease include diarrhea, weight loss, rectal bleeding, and fatigue. Other symptoms include abdominal cramping, joint inflammation, and fever. A loss of blood can result in anemia in some patients.

Small intestine inflammation can occur in individuals of all ages, but is most common among infants and children.
Small intestine inflammation can occur in individuals of all ages, but is most common among infants and children.

Various testing will be done to diagnose IBD. Physicians will perform a physical exam and collect information about the symptoms a person with suspected IBD is experiencing. Diagnostic tests such as a colonoscopy, endoscopy, and barium study of the intestines can further help a physician diagnose the diseases associated with IBD.

Treatment for IBD depends on the severity of symptoms and the type of disease a patient is diagnosed with. Eating a healthy diet, reducing stress, and getting plenty of sleep can help reduce irritation and inflammation of the intestines. Medications, such as corticosteroids to control inflammation and antidiarrheal medications, may also be recommended. Those with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may need surgery to remove sections of the intestines that are damaged.

Gastroenteritis results in a temporary inflammation of the intestines. The most common cause of gastroenteritis is a virus, often referred to as the flu. Bacteria and parasites can also cause gastroenteritis. Common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and body aches. Treatment will depend on the cause but can include rest, plenty of fluids and, in the case of bacterial infections, antibiotics.

Gastroenteritis results in a temporary inflammation of the intestines.
Gastroenteritis results in a temporary inflammation of the intestines.

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